More than 85 percent of Indian Americans view President Barack Obama’s job performance favorably and three-quarters of them plan to vote for him this November, concluded a new poll released May 1.
Indian Americans represent the largest subset of Asian Americans to support Obama, reported the poll, noting that just six percent said they would vote for the presumptive Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Sixty-five percent of Indian Americans identify as Democrats, while nine percent say they are Republicans. Indian Americans also expressed high levels of support for Democratic congressional candidates in the poll conducted by Lake Research Partners, which have conducted several polls for the Democratic party.
Twenty-six percent of Indian American poll respondents said they were independent or undecided, and represent a significant bloc that could be tapped by either party.
Obama has the support of most Asian American ethnic groups, except Korean Americans. Most of those surveyed said they were discouraged about the economy, but encouraged by the general direction of the country. Democrats are doing a better job on health care, education and immigration, said poll respondents, who also saw the party as a beacon of fairness and middle-class values.
“Indian Americans are on the rise. They’re gaining popularity and strength, institutional capacity and political sophistication,” Toby Chaudhuri, board chair of APIAVote, told India-West.
“They’re enjoying an expanded coalition and witnessing an exciting new generation of leaders who are transforming America’s political debate, putting forward new priorities to fix our troubled economy,” said the veteran political strategist, who hosted a May 1 press briefing on the new poll, the first-ever survey of Asian American voters.
“There’s an unprecedented amount of political activity happening within the community and outside the formal campaigns. Activists are building a movement to force changes that might otherwise never take place,” said Chaudhuri.
Kamil Hasan, Democratic National Committee at-large member, told India-West, “President Obama is so popular with the Indian American community because his values are consistent with ours.”
“A comment he made at a ‘Meet & Greet’ with the Indian American community in San Francisco in 2007 has stuck with me. He said, ‘If an Obama can become president, so can a Krishnamurthy.’ He has given a lot of hope to immigrant communities.”
Hasan added, “He has appointed more Indian Americans to his administration than any President has ever done in the history of the country. He has also strengthened U.S.-India relations and brought them to a new, much higher, strategic level.”
But Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners noted at the May 1 press briefing that although Asian Americans will make up nine percent of the U.S. population by 2050, they are lagging behind in political presence and visibility, and have largely been ignored by both parties.
“A significant number said they did not know enough about each (presidential) candidate last time around,” said Lake. “Our community will vote for candidates who are engaging them on the issues, but it’s been difficult to convince political parties that this is a racial group to engage with.”
“Taking these voters for granted in the short-run will have a big impact in the long-run because they’re on a fast rise and they’re very loyal,” said Mee Moua, president of the Asian American Justice Center and a former state legislator. “They’re looking for leaders who will stand up for them and address their issues.”
A day earlier, Reps. Mike Honda and Judy Chu kicked off the group, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders for Obama, on a conference call with reporters. The organization aims to recruit grassroots volunteers to reach out to the AAPI community.
“The Obama administration clearly understands our communities’ needs,” said Honda, D-Calif., the vice chair of the Democratic National Committee. “Whether it’s on health care, education, or economic security, the president’s vision for the future will continue to move the country forward, rather than taking us back to the failed policies of the past,” he said, adding that Obama has significantly increased AAPI representation in government.
“We’ve gone from being marginalized to being the margin of victory,” said Chu, who is also from California.
In related news, the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans May 7 released its “blueprint for action” of several issues affecting the AAPI community.
Chief among them was the housing crisis, which has disproportionately affected South Asian Americans. The civil rights organization Chaya mined foreclosure notices and found that 53 percent of those in danger of losing their homes in the Queens borough of New York were of South Asian American origin.
Lisa Hasegawa, vice-chair of NCAPA, said, “We need to build out an infrastructure of support for families facing foreclosure, and finding rental housing and opportunities for affordable housing.”
Deepa Iyer, chair of NCAPA, and executive director of South Asian Americans Leading Together, said the AAPI community must also focus on U.S. immigration law and pathways to citizenship for the nation’s undocumented immigrants. More than 1 milion Asian Americans are undocumented, she noted.
Obama was scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies gala dinner in Washington, D.C. May 8.